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Chicago Criminal Lawyer Michael Leonard on proposed Illinois legislation limiting search and seizures based solely on the “smell” of marijuana

by | Apr 14, 2023 | Firm News

As a Chicago Criminal Lawyer, Michael Leonard addresses proposed Illinois legislation limiting search and seizures based solely on the “smell” of cannabis/marijuana. It is not often that the Illinois legislature, or any legislature at all, seeks to enact a law that directly benefits criminal defendants. Even rarer is the proposal or enactment of legislation that specifically and directly addresses a “search and seizure” issue that impacts criminal defendants. As a criminal trial lawyer in Illinois who often handles drug, gun, and other “street crime” cases at the State and Federal level, the following scenario has become typical: members of law enforcement approach a vehicle and then claim that they had probable cause to search it because they allegedly smelled the strong scent of marijuana/cannabis purportedly coming from the vehicle. Of course, it is often difficult for defense counsel to prove that they did not smell that scent because there is no objective proof of that “fact,” one way or the other. Although, certainly where no marijuana is actually subsequently recovered from the vehicle or preserved, the testimony of law enforcement to that effect is highly incredible. In any event, law enforcement then conducts the search of the vehicle, and, if it yields “evidence,” the defendant is charged with criminal violations – often gun or drug offenses. The proposed bill/law by the Illinois legislature would serve to greatly reduce such searches. It would eliminate such vehicle searches where they are based solely upon the alleged smell of marijuana/cannabis. This would be a great step forward. The Illinois legislature should be applauded if this bill gets passed because it addresses a real issue in the criminal justice system.

Written by Michael Leonard

Leonard Trial Lawyers

April 14, 2023